Taman Negara – Trip Report – December 2012

After a couple of previous trips to Sungai Relau (Merapoh), I was keen to get back and spend more time at  Taman Negara.

The trip was very similar to my previous ones (July and October).  I drove from KLIA to Merapoh and stayed at the Sungai Relau Park HQ, without having made any prior arrangements for accommodation.  As per prior trips, the HQ was not busy and although there was a large group camping, I did not see them venture outside of the HQ grounds and I had the trails to myself.

I had three nights and I spent my time as largely as follows:

  • on the first 3km of the road, venturing into the forest for a short distance at various points if something looked interesting
  • walking the Rentis Palas and Negeram trails
  • nocturnal birding round the bridge and first 100m of the road inside the park
  • spotlighting the Oil Palm plantation road in the evening

As the trip was very similar and to avoid repetition, I will just comment on key differences or sightings noted:

  • there were a lot more small fruiting trees around in the area and a lot more fruit-eating birds as a result.  For example, just inside the park, there were a couple of fruiting trees right by the road that attracted large numbers of hanging parrots, bulbuls, the odd barbet and a few Green Broadbills.
  • Rhinoceros and Black hornbills were constantly around and were sighted regularly (albeit mainly poor views).   White Crowned and Helmeted Hornbills were only heard and were calling a lot less than during my previous visit.
  • there was a Great Argus calling fairly close to the road as it starts to climb the first hill but unfortunately in an inaccessible area and I was unable to get close, even trying from the ‘Rentis Palas’ trail.  One evening it was calling a lot closer to the bridge but unfortunately it had retreated back up the hill by the time I was able to get onto the trails the next day.
  • I was fortunate to bump into a flock of around 7-8 Crested Firebacks on the road, within less than 100m of the bridge.  They moved back into the forest when they saw me, but came out again further down the road before crossing and disappearing from sight.
  • The Buffy Fish Owl was particularly noticeable fishing near the bridge, especially in the evenings where it seemed to have a favorite fishing perch.
  • The Large Frogmouth is still about but based on this experience is now very difficult to see.  I tried one morning for a short time and only got fleeting views of it flying, always disappearing into thick vegatation.  However, a Gould’s Frogmouth sighted during the day was more than consolation!  I accidentally flushed this from its daytime roost when venturing off the main road down a wild boar track and fortunately managed to get a few photos of it after a painfully slow approach.
  • The Oil Plantation spotlighting was still good but not as productive as on my last trip with a Leopard Cat and a few Masked Civets sighted.
  • there was a male wild boar that had died fairly recently close to the Negeram trail.  It remained untouched by anything bigger than flies for the few days I was there, illustrating the lack of larger scavengers in Asian rain forests.
  • The Malaysian Banded Pittas were still around and I had good views of both the male and female.  The Garnet’s were hardly calling and were not in the areas they were seen in October.
  • There were a good variety of mammals around – Mouse and Sambar deer, two types of Giant Squirrel, Civets, Leopard Cat, Wild Boar etc

Key birds seen:

Chinese Pond Heron, Black Thighed Falconet, Crested Serpent Eagle,

Rhinoceros Hornbill, Black Hornbill, Crested Fireback, Large Frogmouth, Gould’s Frogmouth, Buffy Fish Owl,

Malaysian Banded Pitta, Green Broadbill, Red & Black Broadbill, Scarlet Rumped Trogon, Dark Throated Oriole, Short Toed Coucal, Greater Racquet Tailed Drongo, Large Billed Crow, Oriental Magpie Robin,

Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Blue Crowned Hanging Parrot, Hill Myna, Fairy Bluebird, Golden Throated Barbet, Asian Glossy Starling,

Red-Eyed Bulbul, Spectacled Bulbul, Yellow-Bellied Bulbul, Cream-Vented Bulbul, Yellow Vented Bulbul,  Hairy Backed Bulbuls, Buff Vented Bulbul,

Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Greater Leafbird, Rufous Chested Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Rufous Winged Philantoma,  Siberian Blue Robin (f), White Rumped Shama, White Crowned Forktail

Black-Throated Babbler, Sooty-Capped Babbler, Short Tailed Babbler, Rufous Capped Babbler, Horsfield’s Babbler

Rufous Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Checker Throated Woodpecker

Spectacled Spiderhunter, Grey Breasted Spiderhunter, Yellow Breasted Flowerpecker, Plain Sunbird,  Brown Throated Sunbird,

Heard only:  Great Argus, White Crowned Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, Malaysian Rail Babbler, Garnet Pitta, Red Bearded Bee-eater, Brown Wood Owl, Black & Yellow Broadbill

Mammals seen:  Masked Palm Civet, Mouse Deer, Wild Boar, Sambar Deer, Dusky Langur, Long Tailed Macaque, Black Giant Squirrel, Cream-Coloured Giant Squirrel, Prevost’s Squirrel, Shrew Faced Ground Squirrel, Spotted-Winged Bat

Gould’s Frogmouth
Gould’s Frogmouth
Gould’s Frogmouth
Gould’s Frogmouth
Malaysian Banded Pitta (male)
Malaysian Banded Pitta (male)
Crested Fireback (male)
Crested Fireback group
Crested Fireback group

Spotted Winged Fruit Bat
Cream Coloured Giant Squirrel
Masked Palm Civet
Masked Palm Civet
Buffy Fish Owl
Buffy Fish Owl

9 thoughts on “Taman Negara – TRIP REPORT – December 2012”

    1. Thanks Yann. Will be interesting to see what you come back with this week – a few more surprises no doubt!

  1. Really enjjoyed your blogs on Merapoh. I am visiting there on an all but very breif time in March. My main aim is to see Garnet Pitta as it remains as gaping hole in my world Pitta list!!However I am also attracted to Merapoh for the quietness and the chance to have some really good birding without crowds. I would like to pre book the accommodation there at Sungai relau but have no contact email for bookings. I know you didnt pre book but it might be busier in March. Any help you can give with contact details will be gratefully received.


    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks. Merapoh is probably one of the best places to try for the Garnet although pittas are rarely easy anywhere – a fact I know well as there are more than a few gaping holes in my world pitta list!! I’ll be contacting you for some tips!

      If Merapoh does get busy, it is likely to be Feb / March, so I would try and book accommodation if going then (especially if you want one of the aircon rooms). I’ve PM you the contact details I have and if they work, I’ll add them to the blog info.

      Best of luck,


  2. Hi Chris,
    Your blogs are inspiring me to try to visit Merapoh & Taman Negara during our coming 2 week visit to Malaysia from Australia. We’re keen to use trains & buses, & I’ve worked out getting to Merapoh in our itinerary, but I’m wondering if you know how easy it will be to get a taxi to take us from there to Sungai Relau, & return for us next afternoon? I can’t find any other way to do it within our plans, as we’re not going to hire a car. We’ll be there about 22-23 March. I assume it wouldn’t be possible to hire/rent a car in Merapoh to take ourselves & stay overnight, would it?
    Thanks, Vanessa

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      Thanks for looking and commenting on the blog. I’ve only ever used a hire car so can’t speak from direct experience but based on experience in other parts of Malaysia, I would have thought it should be possible to get a taxi or a lift without too many issues. If you find a taxi in Merapoh, get his details and try to arrange to give him a ring to pick you up the following day. Another option may be to contact the Park HQ and see if they can recommend someone who can arrange a lift from Merapoh. If you have a set date in mind, it may also be worth booking some accommodation in March as it may be a little busier then.

      The contact details I have are Park HQ email: tnsgrelau@wildlife.gov.my
      Accommodation is outsourced and the manager is called Ismail. He can be contacted via tel 09-9150214 or h/p 012-9832651 (if contacting him, I would personally try sending an sms to his handphone first).

      Best of luck with your visit and have a great time in Malaysia!

      All the best,


  3. Thanks very much Chris, your comments are appreciated and helpful. We want to book things as we go rather than plan a complete itinerary, but have already realised that allowing only 2 weeks is not enough -barely scratching the surface of Malaysia! We’ll have to work out when we can return, from Australia it is at least reasonably accessible.

    Thanks you again,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *